In Australia (where I grew up) hot cross buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday. Although they sneak their way into bakeries and supermarkets well before, Good Friday is the day to indulge in their delights. The irresistible smell of yeasted dough spiked with orange, currants and sweet spices takes me back to my childhood, the weeks that surround Easter and the change of seasons. I think perhaps the best thing about these buns is that you can’t get them year-round; so the ritual of eating them warm from the oven with a cup of tea is much anticipated. Here I’ve swapped out refined white flour and sugar for whole-grain flour and coconut sugar. Although this recipe turns out buns that are heartier than the fluffy white ones you’ll usually see this time of year, it delivers satisfying fruited and spiced buns with a rich, nutty background of whole-wheat flavor. Once the buns are baking, boil the kettle and get the butter ready, as nothing beats eating them as soon as they emerge from the oven. Read more
Acai is perhaps the original superfood: This South American fruit gained popularity well before we had even heard of goji berries or chia seeds. The reddish-purple berry looks similar to a small grape and grows on palm trees in the Amazon rainforest. It is reported to contain more antioxidants than cranberries or any other berry and more grams of protein than eggs. Although the blended fruit shares the same appearance as blueberries, it has a very different flavor. What is most striking about the way it tastes is the earthy, rich and almost cocoa-like tones. It was this hint of chocolate that inspired me to blend it with some raw cacao — another antioxidant-rich ingredient — making this smoothie perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up. If you want more of a chocolate boost, be sure to top it with cacao nibs. Read more
I should be honest and tell you that before making this breakfast I was not that fond of black or red quinoa. I know it’s surprising coming from a true whole-grain enthusiast, but the fact is that pearl quinoa (sometimes labeled as white) has a much more pleasant and versatile texture — which is why I cook it weekly. Although extremely pretty, black and red quinoa are best used in meals that benefit from a seedlike crunch and a texture that is not what I look for in a hot breakfast. But, after a few months of smooth and creamy breakfast porridges, I was ready to shake things up a little.
These delicate squares have a snappy shortbread crust that is not only irresistibly good, but also vegan and gluten-free. Creating whole-grain shortbread without butter is a challenge; however, to make it without flours containing gluten as well may be one of the greatest tests a vegan pastry chef can face. The secret to good vegan shortbread is in the combination of whole-grain and nut flours along with coconut oil; add a splash of vinegar to give the dough that unmistakable buttery tang.
Instead of making a sweet and chocolatey treat for Valentine’s Day, I decided to do the opposite and make something with a complex, bitter flavor. Why bitter, you may ask? According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, each flavor (sweet, sour, bitter, pungent and salty) nourishes a different organ. Bitter-tasting foods nourish the heart, so I thought it fitting to include a recipe that would benefit the heart on a day when we are encouraged to express our love.
In the depths of winter, when the temperatures plummet I’ll take a cup of chai tea over a cool smoothie any day. It was that impulse exactly that got me thinking of combining the two and having the best of both worlds: a warming and invigorating drink with a creamy, whipped consistency. To achieve this, I made a cup of chai and instead of drinking it, I simmered a chopped pear in the spicy brew, then blended it with cashews, a knob of coconut butter and a couple of plump dates. The result was the perfect snack and cup of tea in one.
One of the challenges of trying to cook in harmony with the seasons is that by this time of year, local produce is hard to find. It’s especially difficult for me because I draw my inspiration primarily from what I see while strolling through the farmers market or the grocery department of my local health food store. More often than not, a striking vegetable will catch my attention and inspire a recipe. During these wintry months there isn’t much that’s particularly pretty or interesting about the vegetables that are available (in New York City) and the only locally grown produce are roots that have been stored since the fall.
Chia pudding in all variations is one of my most-popular recipes with friends and clients. It’s sweet and light, is irresistibly creamy and lends itself well to a variety of flavors. Making a batch is a virtually mess-free endeavor, with only a blender and a bowl to clean, and this is also the perfect dessert to serve when you have no desire to stand over a stove. The only caveat is to allow enough time for the mixture to chill completely; overnight is best.
Cooking a large pot of chickpeas (or other beans) at the beginning of the week is a great way to ensure you have a healthy protein on hand that can become the basis of quick weeknight meals. I often give this advice to friends and clients when they want to eat more homemade meals but have time restrictions. Not only is it convenient and cost-effective, but home-cooked beans also taste much better than anything you’ll find in a can. High in protein, chickpeas also contain more iron and vitamin C than any other legume. Their creamy texture and pleasing mild flavor make them the perfect pantry staple.
If you’ve been following my smoothie posts over the last year, you may have realized that I’m not a fan of the typical green smoothie. Don’t get me wrong — I adore dark leafy greens but prefer them enjoyed in savory ways, not blended with sweet fruits and ice.